SAN DIEGO— The summer offshore fishing season keeps getting better with bluefin tuna, dorado, yellowtail, and yellowfin tuna providing memorable action that continues to improve. The past couple of weeks have seen the bluefin tuna and yellowtail bites continue to be strong and have also seen the dorado change their habits and start biting much better than they did when they first invaded our local offshore waters. In similar fashion to the dorado, better numbers of yellowfin tuna have been moving in and if they settle down and start biting better that would make what is already very good fishing a whole lot better.
Bluefin tuna continue to grab the spotlight with fish in the 40 to 200-plus pound range making up most of the catch. Bluefin tuna have been biting best for boats fishing the Catalina and San Clemente Island regions and productive areas have included the deep water inside of the Ridge that runs above the West End of San Clemente Island, the deep water around 499 Spot off the back side of Catalina, the deep water around and about the Mackerel Bank, the deep water outside of the ridge between the 277 Spot and the 152 Spot, the high spots of the 277 Spot and the 152 Spot, the deep water outside of the stretch between Church Rock and the V’s off the back side of Catalina and the area one to three miles off the Slide at Catalina.
Bluefin are also caught in other areas with offshore banks within 30 miles or so of Point Loma producing bluefin in the 35 to 100-pound range for boats fishing areas at the 9 Mile Bank, the 178 Spot, the 182 Spot, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot, the 371 Bank, the Coronado Canyon, the area four to eight miles west to southwest of North Island and the 425 Bank. In the San Diego region the pattern of the bluefin bite has been for the bluefin to come up and bite best late in the day.
Most of the bluefin have been found by locating spots of breaking or breezing fish, sonar marks or meter marks. Productive baits and lures for bluefin have been Nomad Madmac trolling jigs, spreader bar rigs, sardines, mackerel, kite fished flying fish, stick baits, poppers, Colt Snipers and knife jigs. Of all those choices, the Nomad Madmac trolling jigs, spreader bar rigs, mackerel, poppers and kite fished flying fish have been working best for private boaters. The Nomad Madmac jigs are reported to be most productive and the best trolling speed has been from 11 to 14 knots.
There has been a massive influx of dorado into Southern California and Northern Baja waters! During the past 10 days dorado fishing has improved in a big way with a lot of the dorado changing their habits and biting better. Dorado are being caught around kelp paddies and from spots of breezing fish found under working tern birds. Sardines and small trolling feathers are working well for the dorado which have been running from 5 to 20 pounds.
Productive dorado areas range from the Catalina area all the way down to the waters below and outside of Ensenada and include the waters around and about 14 Mile Bank, the Slide, the 152 Spot, the 277 Spot, the 267 Spot, 1 to 14 miles off the stretch of coast between Newport Beach and La Jolla, the 209 Spot, the 181 Spot, the 312 Spot, the 289 Spot, the 182 Spot, the 43 Fathom Spot, the Corner, the 224 Spot, the 9 Mile Bank, the 178 Spot, the Coronado Canyon, the area 4 to 8 miles west to southwest of North Island, the 302 Spot, the 371 Bank, the 425 Bank, the Upper Hidden Bank, the 390 Bank, the 1067 Trench, the 1010 Trench, the 295 Bank, the Boot Bank (where the 238 Spot is located) and the 1140 Finger. There are a lot of places one can go and find some dorado!
The yellowtail bite around offshore kelp paddies continues to be good and the same kelp paddies that are producing dorado can also produce yellowtail. The best yellowtail kelp paddies are currently being found in offshore areas between La Jolla and Ensenada and the yellowtail being caught have been mostly quality sized fish with a high percentage being up in the 15 to 30-pound range.
The fishing for yellowfin tuna has been hit or miss with a lot more yellowfin being seen than what are biting. Anglers are hoping and expecting that the yellowfin will change their habits like the dorado did and start biting with better consistency sometime soon. The yellowfin being caught have included some nice sized fish that have ranged in size from football-sized 10 pounders up to 60-plus pounds with a recent report of a couple of 90 pound yellowfin being caught by a private boater fishing out of San Diego.
Best areas for a chance at yellowfin have been fishing the waters around and about the 9 Mile Bank, the Coronado Canyon, the area 4 to 8 miles west to southwest of North Island, the 224 Spot, the 302 Spot, the 425 Bank, the Upper Hidden Bank, the 1067 Trench, the 1010 Trench, the 295 Bank, the Boot Bank (where the 238 Spot is located) and the 1140 Finger. Best baits for yellowfin have been sardines, trolling feathers, spreader bar rigs, cedar plugs, poppers, stick baits and Colt Snipers.
There have been a few striped marlin biting but overall, the marlin bite has been scratchy. The past weekend saw one marlin caught and released off Church Rock at Catalina and I have an unconfirmed report about another having been caught and released by a boat fishing the ridge above the West End of Catalina. In the San Diego area there was a recent marlin catch and release made at the upper end of the 9 Mile Bank and there was a marlin jig bite incidental to fishing for dorado at the middle part of the 9 Mile Bank. Outside of Oceanside there was a recent marlin hookup incidental to fishing for dorado for a boat fishing 13 miles off Oceanside. Further up the coast, there have also been occasional marlin encounters reported in the region of the 267 Spot off Dana Point and in the area 4 to 6 miles off Dana Point.
The fishing at Los Coronado Islands has been very good for a mix of yellowtail, calico bass, barracuda, bonito and an assortment of bottom fish species. Some of the better days of fishing have produced limit catches of yellowtail. A recent fish count from Mission Belle out of Point Loma Sportfishing was that 23 anglers on a full day trip caught their limits of 115 yellowtail along with 29 calico bass, 1 halibut and 7 bonito.
The best of the yellowtail fishing has been reported by boats fishing along the weather side of North Island and at the inner part of the Middle Grounds. Private boaters report success on yellowtail while using flylined sardines, slow trolled sardines, surface iron and yo-yo iron.
The best spots for calico bass and barracuda have been at the kelp bed areas around South Island and at the Middle Grounds with the hard bottom at the north end of South Island also being a productive area for both calico bass and barracuda. Sardines and surface iron have been working well for calico bass and barracuda. Good choices for surface iron that work well for calico bass, barracuda and yellowtail include Tady 45’s and Salas 7X lights in the blue and white color combination, mint and sardine colors.
The surface fishing along the San Diego County coast has been boosted by a recent dramatic improvement in the water conditions. Following a period of upwelling when the water along the San Diego County Coast turned green and cold, the current water conditions represent a complete turnaround for the better with water as warm as 75 degrees that is blue in color now being reported in areas up and down much of the San Diego County coast.
The kelp bed calico bass fishing and other surface fishing has responded to the improved water conditions with calico bass going back onto a good bite and with some improved yellowtail activity being reported at the kelp beds at La Jolla and Point Loma. There is not yet much yet to report in the way of biting yellowtail but improved numbers of yellowtail are being seen in both areas since the water conditions improved.
Productive calico bass bite kelp bed areas have been at the upper part of Point Loma, La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Leucadia, Carlsbad, the Barn and San Onofre. When available, anchovies are the preferred bait for the calico bass which have also been biting well on sardines. As an example of the improved calico bass fishing, a recent afternoon half day trip aboard Premier out of H&M Landing had 42 anglers catch 68 calico bass, 5 sheephead, 5 bonito and 5 rockfish.
The improved water conditions have also sparked improved sand bass fishing off Imperial Beach with a recent trip on Daily Double out of Point Loma Sportfishing posting a catch of 32 anglers on a morning half day trip catching 40 sand bass and 100 sand bass that were released. Try to locate sand bass meter marks out to the southwest of the Imperial Beach Pier in 70 to 80 feet.
The upper end of La Jolla has been the best for a chance at a coastal yellowtail with yellows being located anywhere from the kelp line on out to 25 fathoms. Sardines, mackerel and surface iron have been good choices for yellowtail. Private boaters have also had success when slow trolling mackerel or sardines. Good choices for surface iron include Tady 45’s and Salas 7 X lights in blue & white, sardine and mint colors.
The halibut fishing along the San Diego County coast has been fair but I am hoping that the recently improved water conditions might spark an improved halibut bite. Areas that have been providing a chance at a halibut in recent weeks have been Imperial Beach, the Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego Bay, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the sunken NEL Tower off Mission Beach, the sandy bottom next to the structure of the Yukon shipwreck outside of Mission Beach, South Ponto Beach, the sandy bottom next to the Buccaneer Pipeline and the sandy bottom next to the artificial reefs off Oceanside.
The summer fishing season is in high gear and it just keeps getting better. The great thing is that there is still good opportunity for improvement if the yellowfin tuna turn on and start biting better! I hope you can get out on the water, enjoy some fun fishing and participate in the ongoing summer season. Keep on fishing and I hope to see you out on the water!
Bob Vanian is the voice, writer and researcher of the San Diego-based internet fish report service called 976-Bite which can be found at www.976bite.com. Vanian also provides anglers with a personal fish report service over the telephone at (619) 226-8218. He always welcomes your fish reports at that same phone number or at email@example.com.